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MINSK -- Belarus is to hold presentations starting on July 12 for potential buyers of its first-ever Eurobond, RFE/RL's Belarus Service reports.

The Finance Ministry confirmed that Minsk has authorized BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, and Russia's Sberbank to organize the so-called road show for an initial $500 million worth of Eurobonds with a maturity of between three and five years.

The ministry said Minsk could eventually borrow as much as $1 billion.

The Belarusian economy, dominated by state-owned heavy industry, has been hit by a recent increase in Russian energy prices.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates a government "financing gap" of $4 billion for 2010 resulting from the price shock.

The deficit is expected to increase as in the second quarter the Belarusian government largely abandoned budget-tightening measures recommended by the IMF -- a move attributed to the upcoming presidential election expected in fall 2010 or early 2011.

In May 2010, the Standard & Poor's rating agency cited Belarus's high current account deficit -- more than 13 percent of GDP last year -- when it left Belarus's foreign-currency rating unchanged at B+ with a negative outlook.

The economic outlook is expected to improve in 2011, as the government is planning a number of structural reforms and privatizations of state enterprises.

The Russian government has pledged to remove export duties on oil for Belarus after Minsk ratifies agreements on creation of a single economic space with its two customs union partners, Russia and Kazakhstan.

Belarusian government officials have said this could happen as early as this year.
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